The Age of Extremes, by Eric Hobsbawm
A “powerful interpretation, . . . great analytical force,” writes Eugene Genovese in a review of this book; “I doubt that we shall get a more penetrating and politically valuable [account].” A “bracing and magisterial work from a rich and acerbic mind,” adds Stanley Hoffmann. “It proves the vitality and importance of [Hobsbawm's] approach to history.” And Tony Judt: Hobsbawm’s “latest book is a challenging, often brilliant, and always cool and intelligent account of the world we have now inherited.” Even the Economist finds The Age of Extremes “a brilliant study,” whose method pays “vast dividends” and has “laid down the lines on which the debate [over the meaning of the 20th century] will proceed.”
Why have critics, including the distinguished historians quoted above, been so kind? Do they really sympathize with the views of the author, an iconoclastic but nonetheless dreary old British Marxist? Or do they feel an impulse to be gentle with a famous historian who lost so much of himself when the Soviet Union crashed and burned? Ah, the poor academic Marxists and fellow-travelers: they take early retirement now, or skulk to and from their campus digs at odd hours, avoiding your eyes. I have felt sorry for them myself sometimes . . . until I read The Age of Extremes.
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